Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My FamilySearch experiment

Before I tell you what I did, I want to say that I am a big supporter of FamilySearch’s Family Tree and always have been. Even though I am not LDS I was a beta tester for Family Tree’s predecessor, NewFamilySearch. I am a long time FamilySearch indexer/arbitrator and I work for Legacy which can sync to FamilySearch directly so that is why I was allowed to beta test.  I love the idea of a collaborative tree. I am the first to admit that there are problems as there are with any of the online tree type websites. FamilySearch has a few unique problems because it is a  collaborative tree. Time will make it better as more data gets cleaned up. I educate as many people as I can about the correct way to use FamilySearch through my blog and through lectures that I give to genealogical societies. Please see:

I will also say that I upload but I don’t download. Every single person in my One-Name Study file is completely sync’d to FamilySearch. In my regular file only my absolute direct line (and siblings of my direct line) are sync’d as well as select brick walls that I am working on. I make sure that I keep these people cleaned up. Legacy makes it easy for me because I can immediately see if my sync’d people have been edited. I can then check the edits. I know how to work with duplicates and I know how to merge people correctly. There are a lot of other people out there like me that make it their business to make FamilySearch the best that it can be.

So now on to my experiment. There was a post on the Legacy Users Group Facebook Page about downloading your entire tree from FamilySearch. The person that posted was remarking about the large number of people that downloaded. Even though I have only sync’d my direct line ancestors and their siblings these people are linked into FamilySearch’s FamilyTree so when I download, I get all of the linked people, not just the ones that are sync’d to me. I decided I would download my entire tree from FamilySearch just to see what would happen. You can do this directly through the three programs that are authorized to directly sync, Legacy being one of them. If you decide to try this, make sure that you download to an EMPTY file and not to your real genealogy file. 

I told FamilySearch to use my dad as the anchor. I did this because my mother’s line is 100% European and I am the one that uploaded her line. No additional people have been added by anyone else because no one else works on these lines. I told it to download 100 generations of ancestors. I figured 100 generations would capture everyone no matter how deep the tree is.  I wanted to see how long it would take to download and how many people there it would be. I also wanted to see how many obvious errors there were in the file using some of Legacy’s error checking tools.

The options I chose for the download were:

  • 100 generations of ancestors
  • 0 generations of descendants
  • Assign source citations to imported data
  • Include spouses of children
  • Check for duplicates (This will slow down importing)
  • Include only preferred parents [there are some people on FS have 15 sets of parents because of bad linking.  I didn’t want to go there]

These are the options available in Legacy. The options available in the other programs that can directly sync may be a little different.

It took 8 hours to download. Why? Because of all the endless loops and other linking errors. With every relationship Legacy (or RootsMagic or Ancestral Quest, the other two programs that can directly sync) has to calculate that relationship. If there is something wrong with the relationship it has to calculate, and recalculate and recalculate. I ended up with 6,856 people.

In my next blog post I will tell you what errors Legacy found in this tree.

Copyright © 2017 Michèle Simmons Lewis


  1. thank you Michele I will try this with my father Frederick C. Buss Sr. From Worcester, Ma County,West Boylston,Ma.And maybe if this workes I will do my Great grand Father Henry Frank Struben from Enderfelt Germany.

  2. I don't see how FamilySearch can ever be cleaned up as long as new people upload their gedcoms from, say, Ancestry. Ancestry has lots of great resources but the ease of filling a tree from such sources as "Family Data Collection" means there will be a continuous supply of erroneous data.

    1. When you add a gedcom file to FamilySearch, FamilySearch forces you to address the duplicates. However, you can continually click the add button and ignore the duplicate checking. I think that is what a lot of people are doing.

  3. Interesting... and I look forward to what you discovered!